Hinh Ly couldn’t stop thinking about cats and dogs in the spring of 2020, as the novel coronavirus infiltrated the Twin Cities. Humans were the primary driver of the pandemic, according to Ly, a veterinary and biomedical researcher at the University of Minnesota. But he also knew that many people, in good health and bad, enjoyed kissing and cuddling their pets.
Ly learned in March 2020 that two dogs in Hong Kong had tested positive for the virus via polymerase chain reaction. However, because these tests rely on the virus actively replicating, they can only detect active infections. Ly thought swabbing the snouts of numerous pets was an excessively time-consuming way to determine how easily the animals could be infected.
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So he proposed to his wife, Yuying Liang, a researcher in the same department who co-directs the lab with him, that they test cats and dogs for antibodies that would reveal previous virus infection. “I had an idea,” Ly explained, ‘but she is the boss.’ The findings of those antibody tests, which were recently published in the journal Virulence, suggest that domestic cats are more susceptible to Corona Virus than dogs.
Infected cats, on the other hand, appear to have only minor symptoms. Dr. Angela Bosco-Lauth, a biomedical researcher at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences who was not involved with the study, said, ‘I’m still a little surprised that cats are so easily infected and yet rarely show any signs of illness.’
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Dr. Jonathan Runstadler, a virus expert at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine who has studied how the coronavirus affects animals but was not involved in the new research, said there is still no evidence that infected cats or dogs pose a risk to humans.